The Wadesboro Fire Department is holding on to its collection of Universal fire alarms following a warning about the product from the state fire marshal’s office.
Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey issued a warning about the alarms on Feb. 20.
The alarms are distributed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal for fire departments to install in residents’ homes as part of the Fire-Safe Cigarette Act. More than 21,000 smoke alarms have been installed through the program, and at least eight lives saved because of them, according to the release.
In Wadesboro, about 69 of the alarms have been installed in residents’ homes, and the department has about 131 left in storage to use in the community, according to fireman Scott Martin. He said the department has been installing them for seven or eight years.
The exact problem with the alarm was not stated in the release from the Causey’s office, but Martin attended a conference last week and said there was a 45-minute discussion about the alarms there. He said the problem was with the plastic tab inserted between the battery and the alarm. When the tab is removed to activate the alarm, some people have noticed that internal pieces from the alarm were dislodged, he said.
The Wadesboro department is waiting until it hears from the state fire marshal before it gets rid of its stash of alarms. Martin urged residents who may have had one installed by the department or bought one themselves to check their alarms.
“Right now, they need to continue to test their alarms monthly like they were instructed when we put them up to ensure that they’re working,” Martin said.
Residents should know if their alarm fails to work.
“It should not test at all,” Martin said. “If it’s not testing, call us at the fire station and we will come and evaluate it. If it’s not working, we will try to replace it. But we have 131 on the shelves that the state fire marshal says not to issue out anymore until we hear something from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
Martin said that the Wadesboro Fire Department does not have the money to purchase more alarms due to low funds, but that the Office of the State Fire Marshal ordered new alarms last week and that state departments should soon receive them.
In the release from Causey’s office, it noted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has taken samples of the alarms and plans to investigate them before a full recall is potentially issued.
If that happens, Martin said the department would check its records to remove the Universal alarms it has installed in the community.
Rodney Diggs, Anson County’s emergency services director and fire marshal, said that as far as he knows, the Wadesboro Fire Department is the only one in the county that has installed smoke alarms in the community. But individual consumers may have bought the product themselves.
“My recommendation would be that if a home has this smoke alarm to replace it with another brand,” Diggs said.
Anyone who has any information on the alarms can contact consumer product safety investigator Eric Toussaint at 202-329-0184 or email him at email@example.com with the information.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.